THE GREAT DIVIDE

Till Human Voices Wake Us by Patti Davis

Till Human Voices Wake Us by Patti Davis

Since publishing my novel Till Human Voices Wake Us, which is at its core about two sisters-in-law who unexpectedly fall in love, I have un-friended two Facebook “friends” and have apparently been un-friended by a real life friend whose views on pretty much everything are radically different from mine. The Facebook un-friendings came about because of what I deemed unacceptable postings regarding gay marriage and DOMA. Coincidentally, I published my novel at the same time the Supreme Court was deliberating over DOMA so promoting my novel spilled over into that very current event. The real life friend who basically vanished from my life was probably going to do so at some point anyway, since there wasn’t anything of weight that we could discuss, our views were so completely opposite. I think the subject matter of my novel just happened to be the last straw.

All of this got me thinking, though, about the deep divides in our society when it comes to the really profound issues facing us: gay rights, guns, immigration, racial profiling. No one has a mild opinion of any of these issues, and emotions run high on both sides of every issue. We criticize Congress for its inability to have a civil discourse, but I’m not sure any of us can anymore. My now (apparently) former friend was someone I liked as a person, but I worked so hard to avoid any controversial subject, there wasn’t much we could talk about at all. All these issues get down to who we are as human beings and how we perceive and treat each other. Maybe how divided we are is an important lesson about who we are when it comes to tolerance and acceptance. Maybe the stakes are so high now we will never achieve tolerance. I don’t have any solutions or suggestions on what to do about this great divide. But I don’t think we can deny it. Maybe if we look into that abyss long enough, we will figure out a way across.

2 Responses to THE GREAT DIVIDE

  1. Marc Hoover says:

    Interesting (and cool) that you’d have (or until recently had) a friend whose views differ radically from yours.
    My two best friends during adulthood (who’ve never met) live nowhere near me (unfortunately) but “back in the day” (perhaps my all-time least favorite expressions) in both cases it was all about teasing the piss out of each other constantly and laughing hysterically constantly.
    The first guy in particular, ANYTHING on television from comedy to news to an infomercial a comment can be made by either of us about anything and we’ll be laughing hysterically (to a lesser extent, perhaps, when we aren’t stoned, but still) … in a restaurant, at work (catering hall) anywhere. I can’t begin to guess the number of times we’ve been driving and the driver would have to pull over or into a parking lot because we were laughing so hard he (or I) couldn’t drive. At any rate, while we’ve always discussed personal matters, we’ve barely discussed political issues in the course of knowing each other a couple of decades.
    The other one, a Paris-born roommate 15 years ago same basic thing, non-stop laughter at all the time although we did discuss political issues beginning with when the Lewinsky story first broke and we got into a screaming match because I was too unsophisticated to appreciate how awesome Cleentone was and how unworldly I was because, after all, at least one of Mitterand’s meestresses (his pronunciations) was at his funeral. We didn’t speak for days until we both needed cigarettes at the same time then immediately back to relentless and merciless raggin’ on each other.
    When it comes to my mom and her best friend friend of 60 years, one of them thinks Obama doesn’t just walk on water but leaps across oceans and the other couldn’t disagree more strongly but they can’t be in the same room more than 10 seconds without hysterical laughter ensuing so, so what?

    Cheers,
    Marc Hoover

  2. Gail Harris says:

    Patti, I appreciate how your writing always cuts to the chase. And you’re right about there being a great divide between people these days, especially with controversial issues. I see it close to me with among family members and in the news with Congress. I even see it on Facebook. People are hostile about their positions and not open to another person’s point of view. Folks have disagreed with each other in the past, but now they seem to be holding on to their positions for dear life. Frankly, I think that the reason is fear. Fear about the specific thing that they are for or against. Abortion. Gun control. And fear in general. The world can be scary these days. People want to feel in control as much as possible so they dig in their heals for a sense of closure or containment.

    Look where technology is taking us —we couldn’t have this conversation without it. But we are paying a huge price. As much as the world is expanding it is also closing in on us. An article in this week’s New Yorker tells how a group of high school football players sexually abused a young woman while texting about it to their friends. Something is terribly out of balance here. To me this is an extreme, albeit sick version of this great divide, where people can’t talk to each other about important things anymore, or listen.

    Personally, I steer away from controversial conversations these days. I’m more inclined to look inward, because I can deal with my own fear and see it for what it is. Through this process I usually figure out what I need to do—whether talk with my ten-year-old son, write, or avoid certain types of conversations. I wonder if this serves a similar purpose for me as seeking out peoples’ old furniture does for you. (In your beautiful post about it in More Magazine, you seemed to say that this helps you to find perspective on what’s truly important.) For me, taking solitude helps me to remember that in reality, we are all not divided but profoundly connected.

    Best,
    Gail Harris

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